12 December 2006

Death and beauty

They have something to do with one another; it must be about looking beyond, about being willing to be hurt, to feel fully. God in a firestorm, fear of the God hidden in the burning bush, but despite that fear, uncovering the eyes. Looking through fear, seeing that the bush does not burn up.

I had been thinking about these things already, collecting those quotes below and writing the above, when this morning came the news that the baby of a family I had just met a couple of weeks ago had died suddenly, in his sleep, this weekend. Inexpressably heartwrenching. Poetry is paltry, but better than prose.

Baby, you were born
into your death during the night.
Little pheonix, little phial of flame,
your bundled feathers at once took flight.
You have seen beauty and it burned
our eyes, but it burned yours into sight.
Bathe our eyes, bathe them with tears,
cry to us and sing to us, cradle us
with what you know of light.

I come down to the water to cool my eyes.
But everywhere I look I see fire;
that which isn't flint is tinder, and the whole world sparks and flames.

- Annie Dillard (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)

Who, if I screamed, would hear me among the ranks
of angels? and even supposing one clutched
me suddenly to its heart: I would perish from the
power of its presence. For beauty is nothing
but the beginning of a terror we can hardly bear,
and it amazes us so, because it nonchalantly declines
to destroy us. Every angel is terrifying.
Voices, voices. Listen, my heart, as usually only
saints have listened: till the immense call
lifted them off the ground; but they kept on
kneeling, impossibly, and paid no attention:
so rapt were they. Not that you could bear God's
voice, far from it. But listen to the windblown,
the uninterrupted message that forms out of silence.
It rushes now from those who died young to you.

- Rainier Maria Rilke (the First Duino Elegy)

God circled her.
Fire. Time. Fire.
Choose, said God.

- Anne Carson (God's Woman)

If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel's heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.

- George Eliot (Middlemarch)

It’s not how we leave one’s life. How go off
the air. You never know do you. You think you’re ready
for anything; then it happens, and you’re not. You’re really
not. The genesis of an ending, nothing
but a feeling, a slow movement, the dusting
of furniture with a remnant of the revenant’s shirt.
Seeing the candles sink in their sockets; we turn
away, yet the music never quits. The fire kisses our face.

- C.D. Wright (Only the Crossing Counts)

No comments: